NASA may have found the first planet outside of the Milky Way Galaxy
White Dwarf Star Orbits Black Hole

For decades NASA, SETI and other researchers have found planets all over the Milky Way Galaxy, but according to a new report, NASA may have found the first outside of our home galaxy.

The Daily Beast cited a NASA report saying that 28 million light-years away in the Whirlpool Galaxy, sitting next to a black hole, is the first discovered extra-galactic planet.

According to NASA, they used x-rays to detect the planet in the x-ray binary system, where a star (or suns) orbits around a star that has gone supernova and turned into a black hole. "These luminous systems typically contain a neutron star or black hole pulling in gas from a closely orbiting companion star. The material near the neutron star or black hole becomes superheated and glows in X-rays," the report explained.

So far, NASA has only been able to find planets as far as 3,000 light-years from Earth and within our own galaxy, but this is a significant jump, thousands of times farther from us.

"We are trying to open up a whole new arena for finding other worlds by searching for planet candidates at X-ray wavelengths, a strategy that makes it possible to discover them in other galaxies," said the study's lead, Rosanne Di Stefano of the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard.

Scientists have been able to spot planets for centuries by observing the diming of a sun as the planet passes in front of it. Di Stefano and colleagues used the same tactic, but using a dimming of x-ray waves.

Di Stefano and colleagues have instead searched for dips in the brightness of X-rays received from X-ray bright binaries.

Confirmation is still needed with more data, but because of the location and the large orbit, the planet won't pass over the sun for another 70 years.

"Unfortunately to confirm that we're seeing a planet we would likely have to wait decades to see another transit," said co-author Nia Imara of the University of California at Santa Cruz. "And because of the uncertainties about how long it takes to orbit, we wouldn't know exactly when to look.''

It's a big deal because the system is a violent one with a star that went supernova with a large explosion that created the black hole. There's a risk that the companion star could also go supernova and destroy the planet.

Read the full report here.